Compatibility is one of the most critical factors to the long-term success of any relationship.
When two people have compatible values, outlooks, and desires, the chances for an enduring relationship are much higher than if they see things way too differently.
The consequences of incompatibility can be tough.
Anybody who’s ever witnessed a nasty breakup or divorce can tell you that.
Of course, compatibility shouldn’t be confined only to the relationship expert space.
When you’re hiring, it’s important to find someone who’s the right fit for the job… and for your company.
Since we know that compatibility is key to successful personal and professional relationships, why do we act like things are different for the education enrollment space?
Especially when talking about private colleges and universities, it’s a mistake to think that your institution is the right place for every student.
Some students simply will not be a good fit for you, nor you for them.
Not only are they culturally and ethnically diverse, they are also intellectually diverse, armed with a million different viewpoints that are easily accessible online.
Needless to say, the one-size-fits-all educational offering doesn’t work anymore.
For marketing success, you’ll need to find “mission-fit” students.
As with our personal life, finding and enrolling mission-fit students will lead to longer, more durable relationships between students and your education brand as they achieve higher student success.
So how do you find more mission-fit students and avoid incompatibility?
1. Clarify your mission.
There are many reasons for this, but many schools have less than inspiring mission statements.
This is often the result of bland, vague language that makes it hard to know exactly what they’re saying. Banal statements like…
- We make leaders of excellence.
- We produce world-changers.
- Making the world a better place.
- Educating tomorrow’s leaders.
…are so opaque prospective students can see them as cliché.
In contrast, take a look at some of these very clear mission statements.
- Indiana Wesleyan University is a Christ-centered academic community committed to changing the world by developing students in character, scholarship, and leadership.
- Sterling College is a private college focused on the human relationship with the natural world.
- Spelman College, a historically Black college and a global leader in the education of women of African descent, is dedicated to academic excellence in the liberal arts.
Right away you can see how a prospective student can select for themselves one of these schools or keep looking.
Within seconds, the student can see what the place is all about – their values, programs, and approach to learning.
By clarifying your mission – what you’re for, what you’re about – you empower prospective students to qualify or disqualify themselves.
2. Standardize missional language in your messaging strategy.
For many schools, you have to dig through numerous web pages to get to their mission statement.
It’s not usually front and center.
While it shouldn’t be copied verbatim, I recommend dispersing your mission statement across all of your messaging.
Mission-fit prospective students will be attracted to the missional language you’re using across all of your program pages, financial aid pages, athletic pages, and especially the home page.
At their best, each program page should clearly show the link between the academic program and your mission, values, and vision as a school.
How is this program, activity, or initiative an expression of the institutional reason you exist?
While this missional focus will turn some prospective students away, it will strongly attract others.
These mission-fit students are more likely to make it through the admissions process and matriculate through your program, even if things get a little difficult along the way.
Even if the program isn’t all the student expected, even if they don’t click as well as they’d thought with the faculty, a mission-fit student is more likely to stick it out.
That’s because fundamentally they weren’t sold on your programs or faculty.
They were sold on your mission.
3. Go to “mission-fit” watering holes.
If you’re fishing for salmon, you’re not going to find success by fishing in a pond.
Salmon habitats can be found in rivers, creeks, and streams (and the ocean when they’re not spawning).
Prospective students tend to hang around places that are like-minded, an intellectual or cultural “watering hole.”
So if your mission turns around environmental issues, you’ll want to get your messaging into youth organizations like FFA and other like-minded spaces.
If your mission is centered on helping first-generation students, try looking for Latino community gathering spaces.
Any community that has some connection with your mission is probably going to have mission-fit students for you to reach.
4. Use your comm flow to qualify mission-fit students.
Throughout the comm flow cycle, you can place missional messaging.
Comm flow emails should feature missional language as well as texts and other communication channels.
In appropriate places, you can ask the prospective student in questionnaires or live conversations about their personal connection to the themes of your mission.
For example, faith-based schools could ask prospective students if they’ve ever participated in a community service activity before.
These kinds of questions and conversations inform the student of what it will be like being a student at your institution, helping them see if you are a good mission-fit for them or not.
5. Inspire current students and alumni with your mission.
The student lifecycle doesn’t stop once a student has enrolled – so don’t stop marketing your mission!
Continue to inspire current students and alumni with messaging throughout your marketing channels that shows them how you are staying “on mission.”
Show how featured alumni are living out the ideals of your mission.
Connect campus programs and activities to the values and purpose set out in your mission statement when marketing events.
By connecting everything back to your mission, you’ll inspire current students to continue matriculating as they remember why your school was such a good mission-fit for them in the first place.
For more ideas and help to find more mission-fit students for your school, contact us today!
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